Food and Behaviour Research

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02 August 2014 - Conference notes - FAB Research conference: Sugar, fat, food and addiction: New approaches to the public health crisis

by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson


These conference notes, taken by Michelle Berriedale Johnson of 'Foods Matter', were based on some of the scientific presentations given at the special FAB Research conference held in London on July 10 2014:

Read further conference notes here:

Abundant evidence now links modern, western-style diets, rich in highly processed, refined foods, not only to physical health problems such as obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer but to mental health disorders such as ADHD, anxiety, depression and psychosis.

But public health messages remained confused and anti-fat, often preferring sugar to a high fat diet; there is little understanding that what damages the body also damages the brain.

Yet the scale of the mental health crisis facing the world is now massive. Mental health care, which cost £77 billion in 2007 had risen to £105 billion by 2010 while across Europe the figures are even more mind boggling. 38% of Europeans now have a diagnosable mental disorder, from anxiety to dementia.

In 2010 €798 billion was spent on addiction across Europe and if you include the figures for alcohol and nicotine addiction that rises to €350 billion, substance use disorders accounting for much of that bill. But what is addiction? And what are seen as addictive substances? Not just alcohol, drugs and cigarettes but how about coffee, healthy energy drinks, prescription medicines, food?